Saturday, 31 October 2015

Breeders' Cup Sprint preview

One of the great stories of the Breeders' Cup will be if the unfashionable Runhappy wins the Breeders' Cup Sprint. It's a fascinating story, read more below.

This highly detailed preview comes courtesy of geegeez.co.uk. To find the full detail of their comprehensive Breeders Cup previews, click here.

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6.50pm GMT Breeders Cup Sprint

Key Trends (31 renewals to date)
 25 of the 31 winners had 5+ seasonal races
 At least one 6f win AND a sharp run at 7f in the last 12 months is a solid recent angle
 8 of last 12 had a 35-63 day layoff (though this is not a strong angle)
 28 of 31 had won a Graded stakes that season
 All of the last 21 winners had at least a 50% 1-2 strike rate at 6f
 16 of the last 22 had 2+ 6f wins that season
 16 of the last 21 showed a bullet workout leading up to the race
 10 of the last 17 hit Beyer top LTO (interesting, though not solid, angle)
 16 of31 winners were based in Southern California, including 3 of the last 4 Kentucky BC’s
 15 of the last 21 winners had at least a 38% win strike rate
- Highest average win payoff of ALL BC races
- Highest average exacta payoff of ALL BC races (almost 2x next in line)
- Wire runners should ideally have won over 6f at Arlington, Belmont, Churchill Downs, Keeneland or Fairgrounds (all have similarly long home straights)

How the runners fit



Pace:
This is the Sprint, so it stands to reason that there is plenty of early zip. Four who want to get on with it, three of them drawn nine or wider in this full 14 horse field. Runhappy has the best draw, in five, but will still do well to fend off the tacking-over trio.
Kobe’s Back and Barbados are the only two genuine hold up types in a field that comprises plenty of speed throughout.

Key Trials:
Pat O’Brien Stakes: Appealing Tale (made all, all out) beat Wild Dude (close up 2nd, challenged in straight, no extra), Kobe’s Back 4th (never in contention)

King’s Bishop Stakes: Runhappy (close up from wide draw, sent on half way, ran on well, impressive) beat Limousine Liberal (broke well to lead, dropped to 2nd halfway, re-pressed leader into straight, no extra), Holy Boss 3rd (close up, pushed three wide to challenge into lane, no extra)

Santa Anita Sprint Challenge: Wild Dude (held up off strong pace, ran on to lead furlong out, held on) beat Kobe’s Back (missed break, ran on well, just failed), Masochistic 4th (pressed leader, went on in stretch, faded)

Belmont Sprint Stakes: Private Zone (broke well to lead, made all) beat Clearly Now and Stallwalkin’ Dude (settled in 3rd, no extra in straight)

Phoenix Stakes: [Sloppy track] Runhappy (last away, rushed up to lead, made rest) beat Barbados (held up well off pace, strong run up rail into straight, took 2nd on line) and Work All Week

Summary:
Another very stern wagering examination, and another for light betting in general. With that said, prior to making my full analysis I struck my biggest win single of the weekend in this race! It’s actually not a big bet, as most of my betting goes into multi-race wagers on Breeders’ Cup weekend – framed largely around the main contenders and other possibles in this report. But well get to that in the ‘selection’ section.

Two horses battle for market leadership, Private Zone and Runhappy. The former is a weird one for me: while he’s a very capable animal – winner of four straight, including two Grade 1’s – he is not a six furlong horse. Indeed, the last time he ran at the trip was in this race last year. He finished a good third that day, from a good draw, and with a good trip.

This year he’s run exclusively at seven furlongs and a mile, and he doesn’t have a good draw in 13 of 14. I’m not for a second saying he can’t win – remember my motto that “any horse can win any race” – but he’s a lousy price at 5/2 or 3/1.

Runhappy is a similar price, having been bigger before the post position draw, and he’s a real story horse. Firstly, he’s one of the few American horses that runs clean – no Lasix. Second, he’s trained by a 32-year-old local lady with an incredible tattoo of Sunday Silence on her back. Third, she has just six wins in her career as a licensed trainer. Five of those wins have come from Runhappy, this season, from just six starts. (For the trivia buffs, the other winner was Triple Hott).

Runhappy blitzed five furlongs in 57.8 seconds in a workout on this track a fortnight ago, and that is electric! He has a great draw in five with no major pace contention inside him, but he will need to break well, something which hasn’t always happened. Granted a good start, he’ll be very hard to pass. I love this horse (which is normally bad news from a punting standpoint)!

The best backed horse in the race this week, Runhappy aside, has been Masochistic. But I’m struggling to see the case. Sure, he worked a bullet ten days ago at Santa Anita; and sure, he was a good Grade 1 winner three back. But that was over seven furlongs, and he’s been beaten twice at this range since. His career record at six reads 5124, which is less than stellar at this level.

Much more interesting to me at the prices is Wild Dude. He’s got a line of green on the profile grid above, the only horse to have one, and he’s 16/1. He’s a late runner who loves it when the pace collapses in front of him. There’s a fair chance of that setup in here. The Dude’s record at six furlongs reads 113311, that last pair of 1’s coming in Grade 1 races. Trap eight looks fine for his run style, but he will need luck in running. Finishing even later than the Dude that day was Kobe’s Back, who stumbled leaving the stalls, and was fully 16 lengths back at the first call. By the line he had clawed that deficit back to a neck. There are worse long shots than him, with the perceived strong pace in his favour, but I reckon he’ll be bigger than the UK offer of 25/1 on the US tote.

Another at a bigger price is Limousine Liberal, a ‘veteran’ of just four races. After winning his first two in non-stakes company, he was second to Runhappy in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop before again running for silver in the Gallant Bob, a Grade 3. His recent work on the track here has been good, but he should again be aspiring to no greater than minor honours.

Big Macher, who has won four from nine at six furlongs, including in a ‘nothing’ race last time, has taken a bit of support today (Wednesday). Even if he was back to the pick of his form last summer, however, he’d have a bit to find to challenge here off a very light campaign (just three races in 2015, one of them the Dubai Golden Shaheen).

The one with ‘back class’ (i.e. a level of historical ability above his field today) is Salutos Amigos. Between October last year and March of this one, he ran a Beyer figure of 105 or higher five times from six starts. The exception was in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, where he couldn’t live with the scorching fractions (21 1/5th opening quarter, 43 1/5th half mile).

That notably relevant flunk, allied to his recent moderate form, is enough for me to look past him, especially at ungenerous odds of 12/1. Still, it couldn’t count as a surprise if he did the biz.

Main Contenders:
Runhappy

Other Possibles: Private Zone, Wild Dude, Kobe’s Back

Sprint Selection:
A race that often goes to a relatively unconsidered longshot. In fact, it has the highest average win odds of any Breeders’ Cup race. So I fancy the favourite!
Runhappy is a beast to make you weep with joy. His stride is something amazing, and his ability – unimpeded by medication, trained away from the track (extremely rare in US) by a no name trainer – has overcome much already.
Quite apart from the story, he’s a freakishly smart horse, and he is the horse more than any other that I hope wins this weekend.
Watch his races, and enjoy!

King’s Bishop Stakes

Phoenix Stakes

Of course, it’s a much deeper contest, and there are others at prices worth a second glance. Kobe’s Back and particularly Wild Dude are two of them.

1.5 pts win RUNHAPPY 7/2 Boylesports
¼ pt e/w WILD DUDE 16/1 general

Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Turf preview

More from the Breeders Cup, this time the Filly and Mare Turf from American racing form student, Jon da Silva, @creamontop.

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Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Turf
Group 1, 1mile 3/16s, US$1.8m
1310 local, 1810 GMT, 0710 AEDST


With the Nassau, Yorkshire Oaks, l'Opera, St Leger and Champions Day F&M all going to 3 yo fillies and Found almost doing the colts in the Irish and UK Champion Stakes and Legatissimo with claims to be the best, Legatissimo is the one to beat. Euro 2nd tier hosses like Cannock Chase, Curvy, Flintshire, Secret Gesture & Mondialiste have all crossed the line first in North America. She is well drawn [3] inside to stalk likely pacesetter Sentiero Italia [2]. The contrary view would be that at a mile the 3yo fillies have been found out to a degree with Esoterique, Amazing Maria and Integral handing out the slappings. In the Matron which Legatissimo won easily Amazing Maria did not give her running. Legatissimo has lost 3 of her 6 races this year to horses who would show at 99/1 here only because the tote board cannot show bigger. Nassau bunny Wedding Vow was murdered in the Secret Gesture Beverley D DQ - one can hardly claim Arabian Queen ran to Golden Horn beating form there. Qualify who denied her the Oaks has hidden in shame after being brutalised by Jack Hobbs in the Irish Derby. She may be the best but I want to oppose at 5/4.

Miss France and Bawina appear to be Euro Group 1.5 even in Fillies company and is without a win since her 1000 Guineas. Both have a high level of form without winning. Queen's Jewel went off 11/8 in the French Oaks only to run a shocker and was not much better in l'Opera. The logic is Head is sending a horse for Lasix as there is no other reason he would send her. Arguably her Saint-Alary early season win as good as almost any. Bawina is a non runner.

Sentiero Italia was badly beaten 3 weeks ago at 3/5 in a Group 1. Her Sands Point win points to her being potentially special but not fresh and loss says not at peak form. She may be lone speed if they revert to forward tactics. Hard Not to Like is felt to want to run on hard going which it will not be here and coming off a poor un. Photo Call bt Sharla Rae and Elektrum last time but is likely not quite good enough on the numbers. Dacita the pride of Chile [as lazy UK comms would say] ran down Tepin (US shortest priced for Mile) on first US start and that is probably why Tepin heads to the Mile.

Secret Gesture and Stephanie's Kitten probably the same horse based on Bev D. Slight preference for the former as she will be more forwardly positioned and is slightly bigger odds.... I'd like to think at least one of this field can beat them. Watsdachances 3rd best horse in the Bev D promoted to winner over these 2 handles ground and distance and might fill out a big Superfecta here.

Talmada Wide draw should see the behinds of plenty of these all the way to finish. 2nd in the EP Taylor which is nice but this race is deep and she looks Group 3.

Conclusion

For me this is the best transatlantic all age turf race on the card for me with top US horses competitive to a degree. Every horse has a flaw bar Legatissimo who could be too good but with so many Grade 1 horses I can't take 5/4 she takes to track, US turf, Lasix and she has lost to weaker fields. 3 I believe could step up to a higher level Sentiero is probably worth a small cover and the Head spinner Queen's Jewel. Dacita with worries about pace and going at 16s in a race too stacked for me to EW is a tentative selection.

Bets
Dacita to win UK 16s
Sentiero small saver at 20s
box exacta them with Legatissimo

Charlie Hall Chase preview

October's a funny time for racing in Britain but jumps season really gets going with the Charlie Hall Chase. This year, be thankful we actually know what distance the race is being run over.

Taking up the challenge is the astute Nick Palfrey, @8palfrey8, and you can read more of his work on his blog.

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Bet365 Charlie Hall Chase
Grade 2, £100,000, Three Miles 45y
1505 local 0205 GMT

Saturday's renewal of Wetherby's greatest race has a small but very select field for the second consecutive season - In fact I can't remember off the top of my head two better renewals. Menorah attempts win the race again and faces a tough task with his 10lb penalty. Yes, he had to give away the same sort of weight last season but the two horses who benefited the most, Wayward Prince and Medermit, haven't the class that Cue Card, Dynaste and Ballynagour have. These three high class animals are most advantaged by the penalty values in tomorrow's contest which sees Many Clouds and Sam Winner carrying the same burden as Menorah and Holywell giving them 6lbs.

Menorah I can see running well again, he been a terrific servant for his connections but that weight concession will probably be too much for him given that this is a slightly better edition than last year's contest. I think the same comment broadly applies to Many Clouds and Sam Winner also. I also think the trip is on the short side for both these creatures though, they are strong staying types who ideally need further than three miles (I won't go into the controversies that have surrounded the actual distance of this race in the past, I'm going with the published trip of 3m45yds for the purpose of this piece.)

I'm a big fan of Holywell and have taken fancy prices about him for the Cheltenham Gold Cup but he seems to be a spring horse and the rain the track has had today (the ground is now soft) is against him unfortunately. I see the winner of this event coming from the trio on 11st. Cue Card would murder this field at his best but the last time he ran close to his best was almost two years ago when he beat Dynaste by four lengths or so in the Betfair Chase at Haydock. He's had multiple injuries since then and folded tamely behind Don Cossack at Aintree and Punchestown towards the tail end of last season and so is easily passed over at his rather cramped odds.

Dynaste and Ballynagour represent the David Pipe stable and with the weather forecast generally dry from now until race time I expect them both to line-up and fight out the finish. The former has had a pipe (geddit?) opener over hurdles in France which should see him spot on for this and at his best is the second best horse in the race behind Cue Card. Unlike that horse though there is little sign that he is on the downturn having run a stormer behind Silviniaco Conti in last season's King George. I admit the fact that this is his first outing over fences since he was sidelined from the spring Festivals due to injury is not ideal, but at his price (4/1) the other positives he has make him a worthwhile bet. His stable companion is worth a bit of cover if that's your thing, he runs well fresh and might have won the Betfred Bowl at Aintree in April (Menorah and Holywell in behind) but for a bad jump at the fourth last. However I think he's more ground dependant over fences than Dynaste and for that reason with the rain I will leave him alone.

In summary this is a cracking renewal of a famous race and I expect Dynaste to come on top.

Breeders Cup Classic preview

The biggest race of all at the Breeders' Cup is the big finale, the Breeders' Cup Classic. G1 winners galore, but best of all, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah versus the Irish 3yo mile star, Gleneagles.

Taking the reins is international racecalling prodigy Luke Humphreys, @worldracingluke.

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Breeders’ Cup Classic
Keeneland (United States of America)
Ground: Fast (Dirt)
Race 11 G1 3yo+ 2000m Dirt $5,000,000

Odds are Best Priced at Time of Writing

1 Tonalist (8/1) (United States of America): Model of consistency that never runs a bad race. Famous for being the victor of the 2014 G1 Belmont Stakes, California Chrome’s Triple Crown bid. Clear 2nd to Honor Code in the G1 Metropolitan Handicap in June and his latest G1 runs include a never nearer 3rd in the G1 Whitney Stakes and an absolute romp in the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes for the 2nd year in a row. Got way too far back in this last year and absolutely stormed home for 5th, probably unlucky in a way not to win as we’re some. From post one he’ll be in the race with every chance and will be up there for sure and looks the safe value bet of the race Each-Way.

2 Keen Ice (14/1) (United States of America): Has the scalp of being the only horse to get home in front of American Pharoah as a 3YO. He achieved that in the G1 Travers Stakes last time coming off a suicide tempo, between Frosted and American Pharoah, and was the freshest and best horse to swamp them late on. Finished 3rd to American Pharoah in the G1 Belmont Stakes and ran him down well, mind you American Pharoah was absolutely unextended, in the G1 Haskell Invitational Stakes at Monmouth Park to two and a half lengths two starts back. Everything went absolutely perfectly right in the Travers and if he’s to win here he’ll need even more things to go right. But, saying that he should finish around midfield.

3 Frosted (16/1) (United States of America): Top horse who has won the G1 Wood Memorial Stakes and G2 Pennsylvania Derby this year and has run 4th to American Pharoah in the G1 Kentucky Derby and 2nd to him in the G1 Belmont Stakes. Two starts ago he declared war at American Pharoah, ridden to beat him by Jose Lezcano and got tired late to finish 3rd. A model of consistency that should run well as always.

4 American Pharoah (7/4) (United States of America): The horse of America that became the first horse to win the Triple Crown of the G1 Kentucky Derby, G1 Preakness Stakes and G1 Belmont Stakes in 37 years in freakish style. He produced arguably a career best performance in his first run back from the Triple Crown in the G1 Haskell Invitational Stakes and although he beat one of the lesser G1 field’s he’s faced, the ease he did it with was extraordinary. He suffered his first defeat this year in the G1 Travers Stakes last time when having a war with Frosted and even though he kept on, Keen Ice had too much freshness late on. He was entitled to get beat, which he did, but I don’t believe he was the same horse that day as he absolutely smashed Keen Ice in the Haskell, unextended with Keen Ice ridden hard, and then Keen Ice turned the tables on him. So although he was entitled to get beat in the Travers, there’s absolutely no doubt in my opinion that he wasn’t the same horse as what he had been running up to in his other runs this year. However, that was two months ago and he comes into this fresh, maybe too fresh however, so hopefully we can see the real American Pharoah one last time before he goes to stud and see him become the first horse ever to do the Grand Slam of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic.

5 Gleneagles (14/1) (Ireland): Clearly the question mark horse of the race considering he’s been the question mark horse of the year! Started off the year with an easy win at Newmarket in the G1 2000 Guineas on Good to Firm ground. He then got held up but he’s class was too much for his rivals when he got home by three quarters of a length in the G1 Irish 2000 Guineas however there’s no doubt the Good to Yielding, Good to Soft, ground slowed him up a bit. He then easily won the G1 St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot on Good to Firm ground. Since then he’s been the mystery horse! Ballydoyle made the decision to miss the G1 Sussex Stakes, and a clash against Solow, because the ground too soft for him, which makes absolutely no sense at all as the ground was officially described as Good with no Soft in it anywhere. He then skipped the G1 Prix Jacques le Marois, due to the Very Soft ground, and was rerouted to the G1 Juddmonte International Stakes, against Golden Horn, three days later. He then missed this engagement due to the Good to Soft ground. He then again missed his next two engagements in the G1 Irish Champion Stakes, due to the Soft ground and the G1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp, Ballydoyle wanted to run at Leopardstown and under French rules you can’t have a horse confirmed for two races so they took him out of Longchamp however he wouldn’t have run anyhow cause the ground came up Very Soft! He’s first run back was in the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on British Champions Day two weeks back on unsuitable Good to Soft ground where he disappointed finishing 6th of nine. He was first-up for four months against fit G1 opposition, such as Solow, so maybe that was the reason he went poor but certainly the ground made a difference. Ordinarily Aidan O’Brien didn’t want to run him but if he was going to the Breeders’ Cup, he wanted to get a run into him so he ran. So even though this is his first time over further than a mile he should run out 10f I’d imagine. However, how will he handle dirt clogs if he can’t handle soft turf clogs? And even ordinarily the Dirt must be a question for him, also especially if it rains likes it’s forecast too! Dirt races are run fast thought in the United States of America so maybe it will suit. I believe he’s the best horse in the race but there are question marks.

6 Effinex (66/1) (United States of America): Was able to take the scalp of Tonalist in the G2 Suburban Handicap in July and has since finished 4th in the G1 Woodward Stakes and an 11 and a half-length 3rd to Tonalist in the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes. To be honest considering he did beat Tonalist narrowly only four months ago 66/1 is probably overs but either way it’s hard to see him winning.

7 Smooth Roller (16/1) (United States of America): Only making start five here but is already a G1 winner in the Awesome Again Stakes by five and a quarter lengths last time. Was 4th in a Conditions race the time before however he lost many lengths at the start after stumbling so forget it as 4th was a big performance. Had only won a Claimer by a nose and a Maiden before then. Easy G1 winner last time but before that he’d been running in very ordinary races compared to this. An ask.

8 Hard Aces (100/1) (United States of America): 4th to Shared Belief in the G1 Santa Anita Handicap in March and the G1 Santa Anita Gold Cup by a nose. 6th in the G1 Pacific Classic and G1 Awesome Again Stakes the last two times. 100/ probably overs but can’t seem him winning.

9 Honor Code (8/1) (United States of America): Top horse who went from last to first in the last three furlongs in the G1 Metropolitan Handicap beating Tonalist in June. Won the G1 Whitney Stakes two runs back and ran 3rd in the G2 Kelso Handicap over a mile last time as a lead-up for this over a more suitable trip lead-up wise, thought Shug McGaughey anyhow, so certainly read into the two G1 wins more than that. First time over 10f is a slight concern but you’d expect him to get it. Chance but biggest test.

A fantastic renewal of the Classic which in my humble opinion year in year out is the most exciting race of the year worldwide. In my almost three years of following racing globally, it is such a highly anticipated race and is always so exciting and full of action and drama. And this is one of the best and most enthralling renewals ever. It's been marred a bit with Beholder being scratched due to bleeding after trackwork. (4) American Pharoah is the horse of America winning the Triple Crown earlier this year. To be fair he’s probably the best horse in the race but being first-up for two months and coming into it off a defeat I’m happy to say 7/4 is unders in what is his toughest test and hugely competitive strong race. Either way, we see him for the final time so hopefully he can go out on the top and there’s no reason why he won’t. (1) Tonalist is a model of consistency and in my humble opinion should’ve won this race last year and you can expect him to run well. The controversial (5) Gleneagles has it all against him in ways but I’ll put him in for 3rd as he trys to give Aidan O’Brien and Coolmore a deserving Breeders’ Cup Classic and also Ryan Moore. (9) Honor Code, (3) Frosted, (2) Keen Ice are all very good but will need a bit of luck to be winning, (6) Effinex and (8) Hard Aces will need more luck.

Selections
(4) American Pharoah - (1) Tonalist - (5) Gleneagles - (9) Honor Code - (3) Frosted - (2) Keen Ice - (6) Effinex - (8) Hard Aces

The Bet
(5) Gleneagles to Place.

Friday, 30 October 2015

JNWine.com Champion Chase

It's not just flat racing exciting everyone this weekend, the traditionalists have their jumps racing to warm to as well. Over in the north of Ireland, it's off to Down Royal for the Champion Chase, as previewed by regular contributor David Stephens, @DaveStevos.

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JNWine.com Champion Chase
Grade 1, Down Royal, Three Miles
€140,000
1440 local


Saturday is the day that the National Hunt season feels like it really gets under way, and some of the discipline's biggest stars will be strutting their stuff on both sides of the Irish Sea. The Champion Chase at Down Royal has traditionally been a good pointer for bigger days later in the season and past winners include classy grey The Listener, the enigmatic Beef Or Salmon and of course the legendary Kauto Star.

Road To Riches took the prize last year, but he isn't back to defend his crown. Unfortunately only four of the eleven contenders that were left in yesterday have stood their ground, but at least the star attraction Don Cossack is set to take his chance. Last year's runner up Rocky Creek is back for another crack, and on paper he looks to be the biggest threat to The Don.

DON COSSACK ELLIOTT/COOPER

Exceedingly talented 175 rated 8yo son of Sholokov who announced his arrival as a proper chaser last year with seven wins from eight runs, including three Grade 1s. His only defeat came on the biggest day of all at Cheltenham in the Ryanair, but he bounced back from that defeat at Prestbury Park with a scintillating display of speed, stamina and jumping at Aintree, followed by another at Punchestown.

He made his reappearance in a Grade 3 at Punchestown a couple of weeks ago and looked as good as ever, beating useful yardstick Roi Du Mee, who re-opposes here. He is a powerful traveller, a spectacular jumper, and with race fitness on his side he will be a tough nut to crack. He is the current 2/7 favourite and deservedly so.

ROI DU MEE ELLIOTT/WALSH

This 154 rated 10yo son of Lavirico has been ultra consistent in 2015. He picked up Listed and Grade 3 chases and is a former winner of this race, beating Sizing Europe back in 2013. He hasn't been out of the first two on his last five runs, winning three of them. He comes back for another crack at the Champion Chase this year, and had a pleasing prep run behind Don Cossack at Punchestown.

Historically he has taken a couple of runs to reach full fitness though, and when he won this two years back it was his fourth run of the season. Even if he was fully fit there is no reason to believe he can turn the tables on his Gigginstown team-mate Don Cossack who had his measure by 12L at Punchestown. Will run his usual solid race and looks set to battle it out for 2nd behind the favourite. He can be backed at 16/1.

ROCKY CREEK NICHOLLS/TWISTON DAVIES

English raider from the powerful Paul Nicholls yard who won a Grade 3 chase at Kempton last February and he also tasted success at Grade 2 level in the Reynoldstown at Ascot back in 2013. This 160 rated 9yo son of Dr Massini has had only one run at the highest level over fences, in this race last year, and he finished a creditable 2nd to Road To Riches. He was beaten 11L though, so that piece of form leaves him with a fair bit to find with the favourite Don Cossack, as does his rating.

He has run well on each of his last three seasonal reappearances with form figures of 222. The worry has to be that a lot of Paul Nicholls' horses have badly needed their comeback run, and there has to be a big doubt about whether Rocky Creek will be 100% ready for this contest. If he is he should finish a clear second on the figures, but without a prep run it might pay to chance one of his race fit rivals for the forecast. He is currently priced up at 9/2.

TEXAS JACK MEADE/FLANAGAN

9yo son of Curtain Time that is rated just 148 over fences. He has a fair bit to find with the other three in the field on the figures. He is a dual Grade 2 chase winner, and lowered the colours of Lord Windermere on the first occasion. However, he has yet to win over further than 2m 5f and on the two occasions he came up against Don Cossack last season he was well beaten.

He would be much better off with these rivals in a handicap, but off level weights and over a trip he has yet to win at he looks sure to struggle. The one positive for Texas Jack is that he has race fitness on his side, but that applies to the two Gigginstown contenders also. Flanagan's aim will be to get around and pick up the handy £4200 prize money on offer for finishing fourth, or perhaps even better if there are any mishaps during the race. He is the outsider of the field and can be backed at 33/1.

CONCLUSION

It has to be said that having only four runners in such a valuable race is a very underwhelming turnout. There was eleven left in up until this morning, and I am sure the organisers will be pretty disappointed with the final line up. However, at least the star attraction has held his ground, and it is difficult to see any of these troubling the mighty Don Cossack. Barring mishaps he looks an absolute good thing at 2/7.

You won't get rich quick at those odds though, and if you are looking for a bit of value it could pay to have a flutter on the forecast. Paul Nicholls' horses have mostly looked undercooked for their seasonal comebacks, and that could well turn out to be the case with Rocky Creek. Roi Du Mee is fit, hasn't got a huge amount to find with Rocky Creek on the figures, and looks sure to run his usual solid race. He is selected to chase the favourite home and make it a Gigginstown 1-2 in the Down Royal Champion Chase.

STEVO'S SELECTION: DON COSSACK/ROI DU MEE FORECAST

Myer Classic preview

Amongst the Group 1s at Flemington on Derby Day is the fillies and mares edition, or what the Yanks might call the Distaff (a word seemingly exclusive to them).

Welcome aboard to Brent making his blog debut. Follow him on @HV_racingpundit to catch more of his astute discussion.

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Myer Classic
Group 1, AU$500,000, 1600m
1635 local, 0535 GMT

Form guide
Odds Comparison

The Myer Classic which is run over the mile brings together the top fillies and mares from around the country. Since it was first run as an all females race (1988) there has never been a 3YO filly take out and a few gun fillies have tried. The great Alinghi back in 2004 went down by a head to Miss Potential and since then only one other filly has even attempted this feat. That brings me to my first horse.

STAY WITH ME
I must admit that I have being following this horse all prep, highlighted as my Thousand Guineas horse weeks I advance. I was not concerned when she never figured in the Thousand Guineas Prelude, as there was no speed in the race at all. She over raced early on before pulling all throughout the first 800m, yet she still managed to work home ok after all that went against her in that run. Her Thousand Guineas run was huge and for all to see. She really started to show some famous family traits in that run, as her mother Miss Finland was one serious horse herself. There is a vital key to this filly and that is to get her to settle and drop the bit early in the race so she can save everything she has for one last explosive run at them. With a moderate tempo expected we will see her settle right back and with the young gun hoop aboard Sam Clipperton, then expected to peel off them and have a crack at them down the middle of the track.

ROYAL DESCENT
Is nearly one of everyone’s favourite mares. I had often asked myself of her desire to win a race as she has been a perennial place getter until she put away a solid field in the Group 2 Warwick Stakes back on the 22nd of August, since then she has been ticking over nicely until last start in the BMW Caulfied Cup. Glen Boss pulled her up well before the race was over without punishing her at all, and quoted saying that she just was never going to stay the distance. Prior to that she was huge in the Turnbull and the George Main which is serious Group 1 form. I am not a fan of any horse going from 2400m back to 1600m in a fortnight at all, but if anyone can pull that off it is the man of the moment Mr Chris Waller. Its been well over a year since she has run against her own sex and under weight for age conditions she will be a massive player in this. Expect her to sit up just off the speed and smoke the pipe of the frontrunners till about the 300m. The big question is, is she fresh enough for this.

SLIGHTLY SWEET
Last start in the Tristarc Stakes she finished with a flashing beacon on her head. She looked to not handle the corner at all before running into dead ends early in the straight. That run had her calling out for a step up to the 1600m and a bigger track like Flemington. She will get back again from barrier 9 and will definitely see clear running here at this track. I’m expecting to see her peel off them once straightening and trying to mow down the leaders. This mare has a serious turn of foot and with in form jockey, Tommy Berry in the saddle you can ill-afford to leave her out of this. Specifically set for this race.

SOLICIT
She is a tough 5YO mare who is obviously set for this race. Has only ever missed a cheque once in her past five second-up runs and loves the Flemington track. Only concern is her strength to run out a solid 1600m, as In the Tristarc she had a peach run and hit the front at about the 300m mark and gamely held on to only go down by a head in the final strides. With no wins over the distance you have to wonder if she is 200m off the trip, but Gerald Ryan is no mug trainer. You would have to be hard pressed to leave her out of the finish here.

AMICUS
This mare is already a Group 2 winner this prep after taking out the Lets Elope Stakes at Flemington. She won a group 1 at Caulfied last time she was in town and now with Waller back down here with her he is hoping to capture another. Her last two runs have been well below par but when you look back at them she was never in it. In the Tristarc she was three wide with no cover but still managed to fight to the line, the run before in the Sir Rupert Clarke she sat five-wide and worked way to hard the whole trip before tailing off. I think she will be well overlooked in the market and from barrier 11 all she will need is some luck to get in before the first bend at the 1400. She can really threaten a few of these in the finish if all goes to plan.

Recommendation:
For me I’m going to go all out and stick with STAY WITH ME. Her last 800m sectional in the Thousand Guineas was too good to deny. Jameka franked that form last week against the boys. The 3YO fillies form this year is very very strong and I’m expecting her to be too good for this lot. If playing exotics standout STAY WITH ME and ROYAL DESCENT to win with the others to fill the placings.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Breeders Cup Mile preview

It has been a few years since the Breeders Cup has ventured outside of California, but it's back to Keeneland for 2015. It's the touring party of European raiders that add the cream and intrigue to this event, and the Mile has been a regular source of success for them.

Taking the reins to preview the Mile is blog regular, Chris Day @chrisday100

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Breeders Cup Mile
Group 1, Turf, One Mile, US$1.8m
Saturday 1430 local, 1930 GMT, Sunday 0830 AEDST


Of all the races run at this meeting in my memory, the mile is the race which stands out as the one most suited to European horses.

Coming late in the season it is not surprising that French trainers, who traditionally shun the high summer showpieces in favour of Longchamp in October, have won the race ten times, as their best horses are generally fresher than their British and Irish counterparts.

Turf racing in the States is always viewed as the poor relation and, although American previewers seem to like the chances each way of Tepin, a course winner on soft ground, I find it hard to muster any enthusiasm and view this as being between the European raiders, one of whom stands out for me as the bet of the week.

We can start with last year's winner, Karakontie, who won a weaker renewal on much quicker ground but can't be fancied on either of his runs this season although he deserves respect on that run 12 months ago.

Esoterique is one of two horses to be aimed at the race by a trainer with a superb record at this meeting and in this race and looks pretty solid. She has taken her form to a new level this year and comes here on the back of two Group 1 successes although I would happily wager that neither of those performances would be good enough to win here. She has top class form over shorter which has often proven useful here, Last Tycoon being a prime example, and ought to go well nevertheless.

Roger Charlton is not a trainer to send horses to big meetings without good reason and his Time Test looked like he could be anything when winning a Group 3 at Royal Ascot on lightning quick ground with any amount in hand. He then ran in one of the season's most unfathomable races at York behind Arabian Queen but returned to form in a Newmarket Group 2 last time ahead of an admirable yardstick of David O'Meara, Custom Cut. Recent rain in Keeneland will not have aided his chance and a draw in the outside stall means he will need to be a superb horse to win this.

Impassable comes here in peak form, having won two Group 2s, but she will need to find a few pounds to beat the best of these, a remark which applies to Woodbine Mile winner, Mondialiste. Both add strength and depth to the European challenge and a placing for either would not surprise me.

The one, though, who stands out for me is Make Believe, who looked like a superstar when running away with the French 2000 Guineas, beating New Bay in the process before disappointing in the St James Palace at Royal Ascot where he clearly failed to act on the firm ground and was apparently unable to be ridden for a month thereafter. He wasn't seen again until reappearing on Arc afternoon in the Group 1 Prix De La Foret and confirmed the original opinion that he was right out of the top drawer, travelling strongly just in behind the leaders and having far too much in the locker when challenged by the top class Limato, who had earlier looked a superstar when running away with a Group 2 at Doncaster. The key to him seems to be being able to get a good early position, using his tremendous cruising speed and kicking on two out and a draw in stall 3 is the icing on the cake. Recent rain and Group 1 winning seven furlong form only enhance his chances and, having taken 7-2 earlier this week, I am surprised to see him still trading at around that price.

I couldn't recommend an each way bet at the prices but this one's price is juicy enough to reward backers as it stands and I confidently expect Olivier Peslier, who rode Goldikova to three successes in this race for Freddy Head, to be leading him in to the winners' enclosure on Saturday night.

Victoria Derby preview

Derby Day! It's here! Well, in a a day and a half anyway. The greatest raceday in the southern hemisphere, with black type racing from start to finish. and to preview the eponymous race, it's over to the experts at Premium Racing Services, @PremiumRacingS.

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AAMI Victoria Derby
Group 1 for 3yo, AU$1.5m, 2500m
1550 local, 0450 GMT

Form guide
Odds comparison

PRS Speed Map



There is very good speed present with Ayers Rock likely to be adamant of crossing and leading. With only a 200m run to the tight first turn there will be a tight battle for the spots behind him. This leaves the ones drawn wider to be disadvantaged. It is expected they will bowl along at least at a genuine speed.

Our Market:
This market is of our systems ‘raw’ prices which is set to 100% with every runner rated >$21 eliminated. PRS clients get a market <100% on a wagering sheet which also blends in the public price of each runner to find a wagering edge.



As you can see on our raw market, we believe the race to be thinner than what the public markets suggest.

Rated runners:

LIZARD ISLAND – Another bold effort in Caulfield Classic when backing up from the good run in the Guineas. Was well backed on the week back up. Certainly not crying for 2500m compared to others but has run well in everything thrown at him this campaign; excluding 1st up run when bombing the start. 5/8 seconds frustrating but rates well once again with him having six runs into this, a positive pattern historically.

SHARDS – New PB last start behind Jameka last week in Vase. Rolled along at an even speed at the front on a good day for them. Hugh Bowman now on is beneficial although that now makes it 6/6 new riders this prep. Isn’t expected to fight for the lead. Backing up off PB can rate down as expected but still go ok.

KIA ORA KOUTU - Perth galloper. Smashed in betting last two to start $1.60 in both and win them well. Beat the older brigade in recent start. 4/4 is one that we know will run out the trip. Query is whether he has the class against the Melbourne & Sydney brigade.

TARZINO - Spiralling performances to date, always a positive factor in any race. Last three runs all been excellent Derby trials against some good 3YOs. More than any other runner in the race he is likely to appreciate the extra distance. With more luck coming from well back can use the larger track to attempt to sprint down the outside this time like his win second up and swamp them late.

GET THE PICTURE – Did run on well in the Caulfield Classic after a good run prior in the Stutt Stakes. Yet to run badly. Loses nothing with Oliver now riding, in saying that Zahra is in red hot form but is now suspended. 3/5 seconds frustrating and will need to improve again but is capable of doing just that. May get a higher premium on the price due to the trainer.

ETYMOLOGY – Was much better in the Caulfield Classic last start after a bit of a disappointing run here prior when very well backed. Is more of a class ‘grinder’ of a stayer compared to some of the more modern turn-of -foot stayers. Is interesting McDonald rides this Godolphin runner but he has ridden him in his last two. Can marginally improve and threaten.

Recommended Bets:
Am happy to back the overlays on our market. Wouldn’t be surprised to see the favourite drift out slightly closer to the jump.

Friday, 23 October 2015

W.S. Cox Plate preview

Cox Plate day is one of the great days of Australian racing. In the 'fishbowl' that is Moonee Valley, it's a unique test for elite thoroughbreds with the crowd closer than any other major track in the country. Last year signified the arrival of the internationals. Not the first time they'd come, but the first time they'd cracked it. Now it can be done, will the floodgates open?

Once again, for premium Aussie racing, you need premium analysis and that comes from Premium Racing Services, @PremiumRacingS.

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William Hill Cox Plate
Group 1, 2040m, AU$3,000,000
1740 local, 0740 BST
Form guide


Looks a very high level edition of the race with the majority of runners already producing a performance rating above the historical benchmark required to win the race.

PRS Speed Map



We have quite a high predicted pace rating for this race, even if excluding the presence of The Cleaner in the race who is sure to lead. 2/3 runs this campaign he has led at too slow a pace for him but suspect with some good speed to try and cross to be behind him it is doubtful that will occur again here.

Many of major chances in the race will be in the speed battle, particularly the three internationals. Gailo Chop in particular will find it hard to not be caught wide into the first turn.

Our Market:
This market is of our system's ‘raw’ prices which is set to 100% with every runner rated >$21 eliminated. PRS clients get a market <100% on a wagering sheet which also blends in the public price of each runner to find a wagering edge.



With so much class present in the race, it leaves our ‘raw’ market to be extremely open with very little value present.

Rated runners:
CRITERION – First-up off a let off from a UK tilt did very well to win Caulfield Stakes coming from well back. Second-up pattern off a break good including in autumn when close second in good G1. Has rated higher than last start in past, including over this trip in the Queen Elizabeth in autumn. Settling closer is a winning chance.

FAWKNER – Ridden forward in the Caulfield Stakes and struggled a bit. Was labouring home late. Efforts prior strong including G1 win in the Makybe. Ran superb in this race last year when favourite. May ride cold. Has shown in the past off the very uncommon flat run he can fully bounce back up at next start which is expected here.

HAPPY TRAILS - Good effort in Caulfield Stakes, was a new PB rating. Being his 55th start must presume he rates down here like previous occurrence when producing a new PB. Still not the worst.

HARTNELL - Second-up advanced in Turnbull when ridden conservatively from wide alley. Expect they will try to settle closer, likely will be about midfield as the speed will attempt to quickly cross him. Did produce a PB G1 win in the autumn third-up last prep. McDonald sticking on this Godolphin runner beneficial.

THE CLEANER - Freshened off another bold effort in Underwood, went too slowly in front and was beaten in a tight photo. G2 Dato win here prior very tough when going at the correct speed for him, +5L faster than par. Even more than last year this will be a harder task to lead all the way with so much class behind him. We know he will give his all.

AROD – One of the more interesting runners in the race. 1st up. Talented galloper whose last two starts in particular have been massive collateral figures for this. No disgrace becoming 2nd behind Solow last start in a strong rating mile. Has won 2/2 at trip (excluding 2092m run at York). With Williams on will be on the speed and if he can bring a similar performance his recent starts can certainly win.

GAILO CHOP - Freshened off an easy G3 win last start on heavy ground in France. Has two figures solid for this, a G1 win and a second behind Solow both in France. Map is the issue, likely to be caught wide with the short run to the first turn. Not worthy of having a ticket on.

KERMADEC - Went ok but slightly disappointing in Caulfield Stakes fourth-up after a G1 win prior. Won Doncaster fifth-up last preparation. Stable dominating G1 races to date this season. 2040m still a small question mark but must still heavily respect.

PREFERMENT - Last two wins strong but not by large margins. Did well to round them up in Turnbull in a blanket finish, common occurrence in Melbourne G1 WFA races so far this spring. Nash going on is good but will he be too far back off the speed? Very rarely see a runner come from the last pair to win when The Cleaner is setting a hot pace. Not overly desperate to have a ticket on him.

HIGHLAND REEL - Freshened off a one-pace run behind the best horse in the world, Golden Horn, on wet surface. Dry track wins prior excellent, including Arlington win in the US which rated over 1.5L superior to Adelaide’s in the same race prior to coming here. With Ryan Moore coming to ride he will be in the speed battle and must be expected to rate near his best into this. Our top-rated runner.

WINX - Was a superb Doncaster win when overcoming adversity on the turn. Has such an impressive turn of foot. Good decision by Bowman to ride this mare. Excellent SP profile and we know is 2040m not an issue. The query is how far back she will be from The Cleaner upon settling. Will need to get rolling much earlier than desired to be any chance. May settle closer? Still cannot rule out the Epsom winner.

Recommended Bets:
Back the overlays which are present on our market late in betting excluding 3,10.

Friday, 16 October 2015

QIPCO Champion Stakes preview

Richest race of British Champions Day is the QIPCO Champion Stakes. The middle distance star of the year might have headed to the Arc instead, but the favourite here is a genuine star.

Taking the reins is international racecalling prodigy Luke Humphreys, @WorldRacingLuke.

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QIPCO Champion Stakes
Group 1, 10f, £1.3m
1505 local, 0105 AEDST


1 Air Pilot (50/1) (United Kingdom): Been a progressive type this year. Winner of the G3 International Stakes at the Curragh and was favourite for the G1 Grosser Dallmayr-Preis - Bayerisches in Germany but was a withdrawal at the starting gate after injuring himself. Made a good return two weeks ago however in the G2 Prix Dollar at Longchamp running a nice third. This is a bit harder however and is maybe better on fast ground.

2 Fascinating Rock (16/1) (Ireland): Good horse who runs his best races with the sting out of the ground which will suit him here. Three wins from five starts this season in the LR Heritage Stakes, G3 Mooresbridge Stakes and G3 Enterprise Stakes with also a second in the G1 Tattersall’s Gold Cup to Al Kazeem and a disappointing fifth to fellow rival Racing History in the G3 Winter Hill Stakes. Will acquit himself well and look’s an Each-Way bet.

3 Lightning Spear (40/1) (United Kingdom): Been very progressive this year running a top second to Arod in the G2 Summer Mile Stakes and then a staying on fourth in the G1 Prix Jacques le Marois but only third in the G2 Boomerang Stakes at Leopardstown last time. Should run out this longer 10 furlong trip, going on his Marois run, however he looks much better suited on fast ground.

4 Maverick Wave (50/1) (United Kingdom): Another progressive horse this year from the John Gosden barn. G3 winner of the Huxley Stakes in May but absolutely bombed out in the G1 Arlington Million last time.

5 The Corsican (12/1) (United Kingdom): Improving type this year finished a blinding fourth over the Course and Distance in the G1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes in June and then finished second in the G3 Glorious Stakes to Dubday and then won the G3 Legacy Cup over Sky Hunter and Eagle Top last time. Comes into the race in really good form and goes in all types of ground.

6 Tullius (40/1) (United Kingdom): Consistent type that never disgraces himself. Has some good enough form this year but it will be tough.

7 Vadamos (6/1) (France): Big boom horse of the race. Has improved enormously this year and was a big five-length G2 winner in Germany in September over a mile. Won a conditions race at Chantilly over ten furlongs the time before easily. Huge class rise but Monsieur Fabre is usually right when he says he might have a future champion on his hands.

8 Ribbons (20/1) (United Kingdom): Consistent filly that is arguably in the strongest race she’s faced in her career her but won very cosily in the G2 Blandford Stakes last time and loves the sting out of the ground.

9 Jack Hobbs (5/4) (United Kingdom): Has the best form with a second to Golden Horn in the Dante and Derby and then an easy win the Irish Derby and won the G3 September Stakes very comfortably last time. Missed the Arc for this and even though he’s drawn poorly in 12, he’s the one to beat.

10 Palace Prince (66/1) (Germany): German horse that was fourth to Prince Gibraltar in the G1 Grosser Preis Von Baden last time and two starts before that finished second to Nutan in the German Derby. Rough place here.

11 Racing History (14/1) (United Kingdom): Hugely progressive type that won the G3 Winter Hill Stakes cosily last time. Could be another boom horse in this.

12 Sumbal (33/1) (France): French horse that had won three from three before running fifth in the French Derby and then only sixth in the G2 Grand Prix de Deauville and a good second to Karaktar last time, back over a suitable trip for him, in the G3 Prix du Prince d’Orange. Tougher here however.

13 Found (9/2) (Ireland): Very consistent filly that’s finished second in the G1 Irish 1,000 Guineas, G1 Coronation Stakes and G1 Irish Champion Stakes this year. Didn’t have the greatest bit of luck in the Arc last time, obviously there’s confidence in the Aidan O’Brien stable by running her in this instead of the Fillies & Mares. Be right up there.

Selections
(9) Jack Hobbs - (13) Found – (7) Vadamos – (5) The Corsican – (11) Racing History – (2) Fascinating Rock – (8) Ribbons – (12) Sumbal – (3) Lightning Spear.

The Bet
(9) Jack Hobbs to win.

British Champion Sprint Stakes preview

It's Champions Day at Ascot with more money on the card* than the rest of the Flat season put together. One of the great races on the card is the Sprint, as previewed by Calum Swan Law, appearing courtesy of @EIBloodstock. Read more of his work on the latest edition of his blog.

*not actually true, but wouldn't be far off

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British Champion Sprint Stakes
Group One, 6f, £600k
1320 local, 2320 AEDST


Aeolus- Steady sprinter who recorded a Group Three victory when beating the useful Mattmu in the Chipchase at Newcastle. Not been so good the last two however and was readily put in his place by Eastern Impact here last time. Very much an outside chance in this company.

Coulsty- Son of Kodiac, who tries today's trip for the first time since taking a weak Group Three at Deauville in August last year. That was on very soft ground and having been campaigned over seven furlongs for most of this campaign he may find things happening a stride too quickly cutting back in trip in this contest.

Danzeno- Snapped a losing streak of seven when taking a four runner conditions event at Musselburgh. This is much deeper and he looks unlikely to give Dettori a ninth Group One winner of the season.

Eastern Impact- Consistent sprinter who outran his odds of 50/1 when finishing third in the July Cup behind Muhaarar, and has won two of three since that fine effort. He won the 'trial' for this race over C+D last time and appeals as being overpriced once more. Each-way possibilities.

Emperor Max- Singapore flyer who hasn't been out of the places in 15 races in his homeland. He has finished second in his country's premier sprint, the Kris Flyer, the last two years and chased home Hong Kong superstar Aerovelocity in this year's edition. Ground conditions are an obvious concern, but on form he is right in this, the vibes in the build up seem positive and he has a multiple Group One winning jockey doing the steering. Lots to like about his profile and he looks well overpriced.

Gordon Lord Byron- Globetrotting warrior who took this contest last year and has often ran with credit this campaign. He will relish the ground conditions and gets the benefit of Pat Smullen for the first time in his long career. Almost certain to run a solid race and another with place claims.

Great Minds- Lightly raced 5yo who has struck in two Irish Listed contests this term. However he has been well beaten in his last two races, both in Group 2 company, and looks a rough chance to give Wayne Lordan a hat trick of victories in the race.

Heavens Guest- Only midfield in his latest two tries, both at handicap level means he rates as an unlikely winner here.

Jack Dexter- Finished runner-up to Slade Power in this in 2013 and third behind Gordon Lord Byron last year. However he is winless in 17 and won't be breaking that streak today.

Lancelot Du Lac- Hasn't won on turf since taking a York Handicap off a mark of 92 in 2013 and flying too high here.

Lightning Moon- Buzz sprinter last year having won a Group 3 over C+D here on only his third start, after which he was prominent in the market for this contest. He failed to take up that engagement and has only managed midfield finishes on both his starts this year. It requires a leap of faith to seeing him being involved at the business end today.

Maarek- Grand old 8yo who was a winner of this race on soft ground in 2012 and not too far behind that level of form this year. Will relish conditions and if they go too fast up front he could be finishing to best effect under Spencer.

Naadir- Two time listed winner, who finished behind Eastern Impact over C+D last time. He looked the likely winner that day and was unable to go by, but the set up of the race today may suit better and with Soumillon doing the steering he could outrun his lofty odds.

Adaay- Has won five of his ten races to date, two of which were at Group 2 level, and was chosen by Hanagan when Muhaarar hosed up in the Commonwealth Cup. Very much the second string today however and needs to bounce back from a lacklustre run in the Haydock Sprint Cup. Rates as an unlikely winner.

Muhaarar- Champion sprinter who arrives here looking for a four-timer in top level sprints. He announced himself as a potential superstar when demolishing a high quality field of 3yos in the inaugural Commonwealth Cup and has since followed up in the all-aged July Cup and Prix Maurice De Gheest. Has been given a break since his victory in France and this has been the stated target for a while. Looks to have a class edge here and should prove tough to beat.

Strath Burn- Only broke his maiden in July but went within a short head of becoming a Group One winner in the Haydock Sprint Cup. The form of that race looks suspect and he will need to find more today to be involved in the finish.

The Tin Man- Brother of 2011 winner Deacon Blues who rates as a fascinating contender, having been supplemented for the race at a cost of 40k following a facile success in a handicap here a fortnight ago. He couldn't have been more impressive that day and deserves this step up in class, yet still has 16lbs to find with Muhaarar on official ratings. He has been well found in the market and at the current prices I am willing to let him prove it today.

Twilight Son- Winner of the Group One Haydock Sprint Cup and comes here unbeaten in five lifetime starts. Trained by a master and ridden by the best jockey in the country, so has plenty going for him on paper. However I felt the Haydock race lacked depth for the grade and he will need to improve again to preserve his unbeaten record.

Gathering Power- 5yo mare who is 2/23 lifetime and carries an official rating of 99 into this race. Despite being trained by a master of sprinters she looks outclassed.

Interception- Landed a monumental punt when taking the Wokingham at the Royal Meeting, but winless since in Listed and Group Three company. Swimming too deep here.

Verdict- Muhaarar arrives here looking for his fourth top tier victory in a row and he is undoubtedly the one to beat. However at around 2/1 in a 20 runner sprint he makes minimal appeal as a betting medium. At a juicier price a chance is taken on the Singapore raider Emperor Max, who brings over top level form from his homeland. He was only bested by the world class Aerovelocity in this years Krisflyer and his OR of 114 puts him in the mix here. The ground is a concern but the price more than compensates for that and at the current prices he rates as an each way play

Recommendation- Emperor Max E/W 33/1 with Betfair Sportsbook
(beware the place terms at various books. At time of posting, there was a wide variety of terms)

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Caulfield Cup preview

Spring is in the air and we're right into the heart of the spring racing carnival. While it's not the race most of the internationals set themselves for, four foreign runners (Taufan's Melody, All The Good, Dunaden and Admire Rakti) have been successful in the past 20 years, and three winners in the last seven.

For the pace and overlays preview, it's over to the shrewd analysts from Premium Racing Services, @PremiumRacingS

If I get the opportunity, I'll do a more detailed runner-by-runner version.

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BMW Caulfield Cup
Group 1, 2400m, AU$3,000,000
1740 local time, 0740 BST
Form guide

It looks a fantastic edition of the cup with nine horses present (including scratchings) already producing a performance rating >1L above the historical benchmark figure required to win this race. This is a rare occurrence as the runner that usually wins this race produces a PB rating on the day.

Speed Map



Note: this map does include the emergencies in it, so the map will look different come race day.

Although historically this race is run above par speed, considering the large field there isn’t as much speed as previous editions with the longshot Magicool the likely leader if/when the emergency Complacent comes out.

With the 317m run to the first turn there are a few decisions to make for some of the jockeys, in particular Glen Boss on Royal Descent who I expect will take its chances and attempt to quickly cross and park in the first four upon settling.

Fitness and conditioning will also play a key role into some of the runners’ tactics, with the majority of these runners targeting the Melbourne Cup. This is important in particular for the internationals, with some of them likely to be ridden more negatively than their historical patterns abroad.

Our Market:

This market is of our system's ‘raw’ prices which is set to 100% with every runner rated >$21 eliminated. PRS clients get a market <100% on a wagering sheet which also blends in the public price of each runner to find a wagering edge. The emergencies have been excluded.



Significant overlays:
OUR IVANHOWE – Had every chance but was bold with 60kg in Bart Cummings. Got the run finally once in the straight and did go well to the post. Already having run at 2520m into this not an ideal pattern historically but he has done a similar thing when running 2400m second up in the Arc and then winning a G1 third up at this trip in Munich. Collateral figures in 2400m G1 wins in Germany superb. Should get cover around midfield and compete well.

WHO SHOT THEBARMAN – Will be our large result on the race. Ticking over solidly for this. Good last 100m in Turnbull Stakes when settling third last. Was a blanket finish like most WFA G1’s in Melb so far this spring. 4th up last prep was a good 2nd in Sydney Cup when looking home at the 200m. Was an elite rating. Fourth up last spring won Bart Cummings which was a weak race but did what he had to do. We know he can stay and is capable of producing a fast time rating which will be required here to win.

ROYAL DESCENT - Beaten again by stablemate in G1 when nailed late by Preferment in Turnbull. That now makes it eight G1 placings since 10L G1 Oaks win as a filly. Map is the major query and the main reason you are getting a premium on her price, expect they will take chances and go forward and if she can cross Set Square as soon as possible she will get there. We know she will run honestly.

RISING ROMANCE - Caught wide midfield and still stuck on evenly in Turnbull. Performances prior good including second in Makybe Diva Stakes. Fourth up 2400m historically a good pattern into this race. Will exert the least energy to find their desired on pace spot after drawing a much better gate to last start. Was second in this race last year and is capable of running well in it again.

Backing these runners collective percentage is like backing a $2.40 on our ‘raw’ market. When inputting the public prices to create our ‘final’ betting market in our PRS staking sheet it will be quite longer.

Runners Volkstok’n’barrell & Set Square are also currently small overlays at some betting avenues.

Recommended Bets:
Back the overlays which are present on our market.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

An ‘alternative’ three to follow for the 2015/16 National Hunt season...

In the transition between Flat and National Hunt seasons, you'll see plenty of Horses to Follow guides and Stable Tours being plugged in the papers, books and blogs. And so many of them focus on the big stables, for obvious reasons. But if you want to look a little wider for your winners, and let's face it, they all pay the same unless you're betting big numbers, then Ben Aitken's guide is worth a read. In addition to his 20 To Follow, linked from the bottom of this article, he had a handful which just missed out, so he shared them here.

Ben's site, Narrowing The Field, is a tremendous resource for National Hunt racing, with Trends, Systems and Alternative Analysis - it's a welcome deviation from the mainstream coverage. And you can follow Ben on Twitter @Narrowthefield

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An ‘alternative’ three to follow for the 2015/16 National Hunt season...

BON ENFANT (W Greatrex) - This 4yo Saint Des Saints gelding made a striking impression on racecourse debut at Wincanton in April, staying on strongly down the home-straight to lead inside the final furlong and comfortably put the race to bed in the final 100 yards. It took a little while for the penny to drop when push came to shove but in the end he was easily on top and won going away. He was then stepped up in grade at Punchestown but failed to land any significant blow, being held-up out the back and never remotely getting involved. That was a run I suspect you can put a line through, something his trainer Warren Greatrex backed up when I quizzed him about the horse...

“Bon Enfant won well at Wincanton. He was too far back at Punchestown so dismiss that run. He will go hurdling, probably over 2 miles to start with but will stay 2m 4f in time.
A nice horse for you to follow”

I would very much agree with the trainer in that 2m4f will probably turn out to be his optimum trip as there is a decent mix of speed and stamina influences in his pedigree and he certainly has the size and scope to make into an above average hurdler this season.

On the ground front I suspect Good to Soft and softer will prove to be prime underfoot conditions for him.

Ideal Conditions – 2m – 2m5f Hurdles | Good to Soft or softer ground

BEAST OF BURDEN (R Curtis) – This beautifully bred individual should make a big impact over fences this term. He won three of his five starts last season (one bumper and two hurdle wins) in imposing fashion, two of them by 11 lengths and the other by a commanding 27 lengths, and looked like he was simply passing the time until being sent chasing. He was last seen when finishing down the field in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival although it’s easy to forgive that below-par run as it was reported that he bled from the nose that day.

He raced over varying distances last season but he looked most impressive when winning over 23 furlongs at Bangor and the signs are that 2m5f+ will be where he is seen to best effect, possibly the longer the better.

I wouldn’t be 100% convinced he is a graded chaser in the making (haven’t completely dismissed that idea though) and it may be that he is the type that has a big staying handicap in him at some stage of his career.

Wherever he ultimately ends up he should be seen winning a few novice chases this season.

Ideal Conditions – 2m5f+ Chases | Good to Soft or softer ground | Possibly seen to best effect on galloping tracks

DALAMAN (T Vaughan) – This Duke Of Marmalade youngster ran in a trio of ‘junior’ bumper contests last term, starting off with a staying on third at Exeter and then following that up with a thumping eight length victory in the mud at Towcester. He backed up that win with a fine fourth in a Listed bumper for 4yo’s at Cheltenham on New Year’s day.

He was then, wisely, given the remainder of the season off to mature and fill out into his frame in preparation for a hurdling campaign this term where I suspect he will show improved form when sent over longer trips.

An assumption backed up by his trainer Tim Vaughan when I asked what his thoughts and plans for the horse were for this season... Dalaman appeared very solid for us last year. We are hoping to go straight novice hurdling with him over 2m3f -2m6f on ground good or softer. I would hope he will develop into a nice staying hurdler this year.

There should definitely be races to be won with him over hurdles and the staying strength he showed in his bumpers will be able to utilised to its full when he faces longer trips and greater examinations of his stamina.

Ideal Conditions – 2m4f+ Hurdles | Ground with cut in it

The above three horses just missed out on making my final ‘Alternative 20 To Follow’ list which was released to readers of my own website. My 20 to follow list had three very simple rules...

1) No Mullins horses
2) No Nicholls horses
3) No Henderson horses

You can see who did make that list here >>> NTF Alternative 20 to follow for 15/16

Ben Aitken (Narrowing The Field)

Friday, 9 October 2015

Caulfield Guineas preview

Here we go with four Saturdays of sensational racing in Melbourne, kicking off with Caulfield Guineas day. It's right up there with Derby Day in terms of quality, every race is black type, and only the 2yo race is just Listed.

Premium racing needs premium analysis, so it's over to Premium Racing Services, @PremiumRacingS with the preview!

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Caulfield Guineas
G1 3yo 1600m
$1m Expected Track: Good 3
1740 local time, 0740 BST

Form guide
Interesting Historical Factors
- 11/20 winners had first attempt at 1600m.
- 16/20 winners last start <1600m.
- 15/23 drawn gate 4 or inside.
- 4/23 won from double-digit gate, 0/30 from gate 14 or wider.
- 1/23 has finished further back than 4th at previous start.
- 12/22 last start winners.

PRS Speed Map



Like most editions of this great race we expect to at least have genuine speed with Dal Cielo likely to be crossing and leading. It is expected jockey Craig Williams on longshot Kentucky Flyer will allow this to occur as it will leave him in the 1-1.

The map reads very average for a few of the major chances, in particular the favourite Press Statement who is heavily reliant on Snoop & Shards tactics with regards to whether he can push forward in the first half of the field or not. My advice to connections would be to cross and get on the back of Shards and be satisfied being midfield three wide with cover, but Hugh Bowman is arguably best jockey in the country when it comes to finding great positions from sticky maps on paper.

Our Market:
This market is of our system's ‘raw’ prices which is set to 100% with every runner rated >$21 eliminated. PRS clients get a market <100% on a wagering sheet which also blends in the public price of each runner to find a wagering edge.



Rated runners:
No.1 PRESS STATEMENT – Dominated Stan Fox last start in small field, dashed clear in final furlong. Clear best horse in this race, has 18 Official Handicapper Rating points on next rival at set weights. Map is the query as stated above but Bowman is better than anyone to find a good spot in a position like that. If doesn’t exert too much early energy is the one to beat.

No.3 READY FOR VICTORY – Well placed to win guineas prelude but never travelled in the run. Gets the blinkers on he needs, hopefully they don’t get him to refuse to muster early. Strong SP profile this campaign without winning a frustration, is still yet to win since debut. Will appreciate a mile but needs luck being towards back on inside.

No.5 DAL CIELO (NZ) - First run in AUS for Murray Baker good in prelude when sustaining a solid speed to the post. Was a bit keen at the front, because of the good run suspect they will try to lead again. Won’t appreciate the mile when comparing to the other chances.

No.6 BON AURUM - Got the job done again last start when closing well down middle of track. Was again a surprise to punters. Doubt is capable of improving on that rating here unlike plenty of these because his last two wins have rated so much higher than previous career starts. It’s rare horses can do that for three runs in a row. Coming in off a last start win is a positive factor though.

No.8 SOVEREIGN NATION - Too good for them last Fri Night in weak G2. Spiralling performances to date including a run against some of these two runs ago when back and wide and laying in. Map is an issue along with significant class rise. If gets rails run can be in the finish.

No.9 BASSETT (NZ) - First up victory good in fast time here. Now 2/2 at track and had no luck when fav behind Press Statement in G1 JJ Atkins as a 2YO. Has the time ratings and natural improvement expected to threaten in this.

No.12 TARZINO (NZ) - Liked his win here coming from well back in fast time last start. Coming from well back again will need immense luck. History suggests you need your last start <1600m. Look for him running on as he is an excellent Derby prospect.

No.15 TULSA - Missed start and just missed again last start after peeling to the middle of the track, another eye catching run after he was unlucky and strong late two starts back. Draws gate 16 three times in a row, very unlucky. More than anyone will like the mile but just needs some luck peeling out wide from well back.

Recommended Bets:
Back the overlays which are present late in betting, these may change as the favourite is a good possibility of drifting.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

NRL Grand Final preview

Both winter codes conclude this weekend and the northern spectacle takes place at ANZ Stadium in Sydney between..... two Queensland teams!

He might only preview a few games for the year, but take note when he does. With the shrewd analysis of the big shebang, it's Chris Ryan, @imdabomb82.

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2015 NRL Grand Final Preview

The 2015 season brought 192 regular season matches, eight finals series games, another QLD Origin series victory and will culminate in what should be a pulsating Grand Final. The season had the predictable, in a Ricky Stuart team missing the finals series and a run of the mill drug scandal that leads to not much (the first and only time the Gold Coast Titans get mentioned in a GF preview!). Together with the more surprising, in that we got through the year without a bubbling incident, shock horror! Oh well, I guess we have the offseason for that, as well as Greg Bird getting up to whatever grub activities he normally does in his down time to keep the headlines rolling.

Three teams stood out all year long in the Roosters, Broncos and Cowboys, and fittingly we have two of those in the grand final in what shapes as a ripping encounter. Brisbane and N Qld have met three times this year, the first a Brisbane blowout win in round 4, then two high quality encounters in round 10 and Week 1 of the finals. The ledger says Brisbane 2-1, but I actually thought Brisbane was the better side in all three games, despite losing 31-20 in round 10. In fairness though there wasn’t too much between them in the last two games.

From a betting standpoint, in round 3 they were virtual equal favs, round 10 N Qld held sway at home at around $1.67, and three weeks ago Brisbane were solid favs, but actually drifted from $1.67 to touch $1.80. I don’t think we’ll see this repeated this week. At best prices, both teams really opened at $2, with the move being Brisbane into $1.90, purely because of Justin Hodges beating his lifting tackle charge. As a side note, I think the betting move just because of Hodges overstated his importance, particularly given the depth to cover him in Dale Copley, who can be a stud given extended playing time.

From a personal point of view, I hold a position on N Qld having backed them pre-season, but that’s not what dictates my betting for the Grand Final, and nor should it. I’ve backed Brisbane earlier in the week at evens, and recommend taking the $1.90 available, I believe it to be value, and also likely to shorten further. My assessed market to 100% is Brisbane $1.78, N Qld $2.28. And given the market has Brisbane at $1.90 (or better) we have a 6-7% overlay.

Brisbane’s side 1-13 is fantastic, skilled players in all positions, and a staunch defensive side, the only real weakness being Anthony Milford caught 1 on 1 in defence. N Qld do have the ability to exploit this, with Michael Morgan scoring four times in three games against Brisbane this year, including three near identical tries in round 10 when he beat Anthony Milford with speed and power on his outside. Given they play on the same side of the field, keep this in mind when looking at ‘anytime scorer’ markets as Michael Morgan will certainly look to attack this. As mentioned, the Broncos possess a super defensive unit, highlighted by a number of excellent one on one defenders. Keep an eye out for Matt Gillett, one of the best in the competition for mine, he has an uncanny ability when one out against a defender, in hitting them front on, wrapping up the ball and really knocking the stuffing out of his opponent. It’s an underrated part of his game. Brisbane lack a bit on the bench bar Jarrod Wallace, as they rely heavily on their starting unit, with Dodds, Ofahengue and Nikorima getting limited minutes for bench players. N Qld I must admit has surprised me in the finals series by really stepping up their game, particularly in the forwards. They won a lot of games in the regular season by coasting through them and never really playing ‘pedal to the metal’ style. For the whole year I’ve had their ‘ceiling’ below that of the Roosters and Broncos, who have produced several standout performances, and whilst they have closed the gap with impressive performances in three finals series encounters to date, I still rate what they can produce with their best performance (ceiling), below what Brisbane could produce at their very best. It’s no surprise that the talk on N Qld begins and ends with Johnathon Thurston, and there’s not much more I can really add, he’s a stud. There have been some murmurs about niggling injuries, but if you’re thinking about that you obviously didn’t watch the maestro last week, he was OUTSTANDING! I will add though that those small niggles may have some impact on his goal kicking, which has the potential to be a determining factor.

N Qld’s strength really lies with their small men, Thurston, Morgan, Coote and Granville. The funny thing about Coote and Morgan is they almost swap rolls in the redzone, with 5/8th Morgan looking to run much more, whilst fullback Coote plays more of a distributing role with his passing and kicking. Highlighted by the fact that Morgan has more than twice the number of tries, and Coote almost twice the number of kicks, it’s like they forget what number they have on their back! I think Granville’s game time is a little light on, and for N Qld I’d really rather see the pedestrian Rory Kostjaysn have a much more limited roll to expand Granville’s, but that’s unlikely to happen this week. Including the aforementioned Kostjaysn, the Cowboys bench is a solid yet unspectacular one. Ben Hannant has been a key contributor for them, but like Brisbane, no real impact players off the bench. The one area of weakness for N Qld is that their three-quarter-line lacks some ability to beat defenders one on one, they really need to be set up by their inside men. Whilst Brisbane has solid defensive centres, we have seen Jack Reed exposed last week by Blake Ferguson, and Justin Hodges can be beaten by more agile centres at this advanced stage of his career, like we saw Michael Jennings do in State of Origin. Unfortunately N Qld doesn’t have any players like this.

For some other betting angles, I think the total at around 37, is slightly low, but not enough of an edge to pull the trigger on a bet. If you do however like the unders, I’d wait until late to back it, as I expect this number to push up. The forecast for Sunday is extremely hot out west at ANZ Stadium, and you will likely see some higher scoring early games on Grand Final day, that can skew people’s view of the main game. This will still be a night game despite daylight savings having kicked in, however still reasonably warm at kick off. In try scoring markets, as previously mentioned, look to side with Michael Morgan. I’m less inclined to be with outside backs in this game given the scoring prowess of Anthony Milford, Ben Hunt, Michael Morgan and Jake Granville which can rob outside backs of scoring opportunities. In First Try Scorer markets I would honestly steer clear of this with bookmakers. For instance the TAB has sharpened their pencils this week in an attempt to provide better prices, and the market is still at 150% (it’s normally worse!), that’s outrageous. Having looked through the list, I believe EVERY SINGLE PLAYER to be unders. ZERO value. Betfair is currently at 121% and likely much tighter at kick off. So if you want a first try scorer bet, you are better off backing on Betfair or with a corporate who has money back offers if they don’t score first, but do score at some other point. The same can be said for the Clive Churchill Medal, set at close to 160%, that’s horrendous. Whilst pricing mistakes can be found in these markets, it is difficult in such a high profile game with the bookmaker having such a huge market percentage in their favour.

If you a Broncos or Cowboys fan, good luck for the game, if you’re a punter, side with Brisbane, and for everyone else, good luck filling in your time on the weekends for the next five months until the footy is back again!

Friday, 2 October 2015

AFL Grand Final preview

After six months of the season, it all comes down to this, the 2015 AFL Grand Final. A team written off by most pre-season stands in the way of a Hawthorn threepeat. For the neutrals, and there will be millions of those spread around the country, and around the world (I'll be watching this year at an expat party in Las Vegas) let's hope it's a relatively close and high-scoring match.

Concluding a season of astutely-assessed previews, it's a final analysis from the sharp folk at @AFLRatings.

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2015 AFL GRAND FINAL preview,
courtesy of AFLRatings.com.au, @AFLRatings.


West Coast (finished regular season in 2nd) v Hawthorn (3rd)
Venue: MCG, Melbourne
2015 Head to Head record: West Coast 1-1 Hawthorn
Weather Forecast: Partly cloudy, Min 16 Max 28


Points FOR vs Top 8 Teams
West Coast 97.3 Hawthorn 103.2
Points AGA vs Top 8 Teams
West Coast 83.6 Hawthorn 68.5

What a finale we have to the 2015 AFL Season with the two top-ranked scoring teams going head to head on the MCG in what should be warm conditions to decide this year's Premiership. Hawthorn are chasing their third successive Premiership (could have been four if not for a stumble against underdog Sydney in the 2012 Grand Final), a win will place this era of the Hawks alongside some of the great teams in AFL history. West Coast are the upstarts of the 2015 season, written off by many not even to make the Final 8 this year they find themselves a genuine chance to become Premiers on Saturday. Hawthorn have been favourites for the majority of the 2015 season, after a 1-2 start to the year West Coast were out to $81 to win the Premiership and now sit at around $2.40 to win it all.

This will be the first time West Coast & Hawthorn will meet outside of Perth this year, the Eagles play only their second game at the MCG but have positive memories with an excellent win against Richmond back in Round 12. Both games resulted in a low 162 & 160 Total Match Points, those games were at night in slippery conditions at Domain Stadium. Hawthorn started favourite in both games this year with a 1-1 split, the Hawks started every game to date as favourite in the 2015 AFL season whilst the Eagles have a solid 4-2 record starting as underdog.

This should be a pretty fast game early, both teams are capable of scoring big numbers this year which does open up the distinct possibility that it could be a blowout either way if defensively any team can stop the scoring at one end of the ground. It is hard to go past the Hawks this week, their experience on the big stage will be valuable in crucial situations throughout the game. The value bet will be Hawthorn Over 39.5pts, the floodgates can open up in last quarters in Grand Finals especially if the result has been decided.

Norm Smith Medal chances:
Hawthorn Sam Mitchell & value Shaun Burgoyne / West Coast Andrew Gaff & value Brad Sheppard.

Good luck punters & may we all have a successful AFL Grand Final day.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Moir Stakes preview

Group 1 sprinting on Grand Final eve in Melbourne, at the night racing spectacle which is Moonee Valley.

The astute judges from Premium Racing Services, @PremiumRacingS, return with the preview.

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Moir Stakes
G1 WFA 1000m
$450,000
1945 local, 1045 BST


PRS Speed Map



As expected in almost all sprint races at this track there is very good speed on paper with three runners wanting the lead. Is more than likely that jockey Damian Lane will be adamant to cross and be the leader or be an equal leader to the outside of either Buffering or Ball Of Muscle. A fast first 400m sectional is expected.

Few runners drawn a little wide may have to shuffle back and settle further back than desired.

Our Market:
This market is of our systems ‘raw’ prices which is set to 100% with every runner rated >$22 eliminated. PRS clients get a market <100% on a wagering sheet which also blends in the public price of each runner to find a wagering edge.



Only current overlays:
BUFFERING – Is first up off an injury which left him missing the autumn/winter. Won this race first up last preparation beating Lankan Rupee in small field. Will want to lead but is likely to be crossed, is much more pressure here than last year. He is an extremely tough horse though and unlike the 3YO fillies in this race we know he can produce the winning rating required.

FONTITON – First up. Produced some excellent wins as a 2YO, in particular Blue Diamond Prelude. Was then short Blue Diamond favourite and suffered setback in the race. No trials/jumpouts into this interesting. Has shown she has an excellent turn of foot and has a very sharp sprint on her. With age improvement she can win well.

Recommended Bets:
We will be backing the overlays present in the race using excluding Angelic Light, who is expected to drift with the bandages on first up.